Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rollkur? Hyperflexion? I'm Finished Watching the WEG

Here's a link. Here's another. There's more on the net. I can't believe with the FEI ruling that rollkur is not allowed, and with all the negative publicity re rollkur / hyperflexion, that it is being openly used in the WEG warm-ups. It's ugly. It isn't dressage. I feel rage when I watch it. What a pathetic excuse for riding and training.
I know how many medals some of these people have won. I don't care - they can't ride or train and neither can the rest of there ilk. 
It is rewarded by (some) FEI judges, thus continues, and it disgusts me beyond words.
I'm ecstatic that Adelinde Cornelissen was eliminated (although not for rollkur). The pictures of her warm up say it all. Serves her right. To all those people expressing sympathy - get a grip.
Can you tell what I think?
I've never said much about it on my blog, because there are plenty of forums devoted to it, but this blatant display on the world stage is too much. Why don't the stewards stop it? Is this supposed to be low, deep and round (the flavor of the week to normalize torturing your horse)? 
Anyway, I could go on much more, but I'm sure anyone reading this has read lots, so I'll stop myself there.
I loved all the comments from yesterday's post and plan to post about them when I calm down from the above.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Training - How to Time Things and Guage Progress?

I had a nice ride. It's about 25 and very humid, so we didn't work hard, but we touched on most of our goal areas. 
Since this is my first time training a horse, I don't have a feel for how long things should take. I sense (know??) we were an awfully long time getting to walk trot (a year and a half, including the lay offs and set backs!). I read Dressage Today and go to competitions and see that 4 year olds and even 3 year olds are in level 1 sometimes. I'm sure some horses are ready and capable of that, but even if Rogo had had an experienced trainer I know he wouldn't have been. He was sooo clumsy and awkward (confirmed by Joan, Cheryl and Megan - experienced trainers) and just had no ability to 'work', as in concentrate, cooperate, etc. As I posted earlier, this summer was when he 'clicked' with the learning and training experience and became an engaged partner. He's five now so I'd say that even accounting for my lack of experience, he's on the later to mature end of the spectrum. He still seems to be growing too (I haven't measured him since the spring but he grew 2 in. last winter), and at that rate of growth I honestly had the feeling he just didn't know where his legs were sometimes last winter!
It's been thrilling to experience him 'learn to learn'.  Once this happened, I started posting firsts of all kinds - first flying change under saddle (a happy accident), hack out, leg yield, shoulder in, ... The flying change won't be repeated as a training goal for a long time, but it demonstrates he's acquired better balance and the later two are in the very baby stages.
We started cantering at the beginning of the year and were able to transition promptly, steer, show some balance, do circles, do simple changes through trot and carry the canter by July - about 6 months. Is this an average time? Seems a little long when I read other blogs. Now I can lengthen and shorten his stride in the canter, hold him in it pretty much as long as I want and (almost) pick it up from a walk. I can't consistently do all of this, all of the time, with a quality gait (if I could we'd enter a level 1!), but it's moving in a good direction. He always gets his leads right (always has).
The leg yield and shoulder in are handicapped by my lack of knowledge. I'm learning the aid as he learns to do it so I don't have any feel. I'm learning to understand though that sometimes we just need to struggle through things until we both get it - as he gets a step or two of lateral movement and I praise the work, I start getting more of it. Then I start to get a rhythm and my aid becomes more confident and clear. Does this make sense?
Rather a rambling post - but as Rogo learns to learn, I'm trying to become trained to train :) , and it entails committing some of this to memory.
Tonight he did well in a walking leg yield to the right, not so well to the left. My aid is better to the right. We practiced shoulder in for the second time and he seemed to get some steps both ways, but I really need someone on the ground to tell me if we're actually three tracking as this is completely new to me.
He did nice canter departs, but I didn't (didn't sit and go with him well). The canter was fine, but not as 'jumping' as it has been. Bending was good and the contact is definitely improving. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Lesson With Cheryl

I had a really good lesson with Cheryl this morning. She told me at a few points that it's the best I've ridden. I didn't feel I was riding well, but it's nice to hear. I feel like it's much easier to ride better now, because Rogo is responding much better. She says he's responding better because I'm riding better. Chicken and egg! Probably a little of each.
Rogo was nicely forward today - a welcome change from a little too laid back of late.
We worked on contact, which is our #1 goal right now. He is really improving, at least he was today and I think he is over-all. Still a long way to go, but he is really staying with it for longer periods of time. I bend to the inside for a transition or when he starts putting his head out and he comes back to his connection and starts pushing from behind more. It's wonderful to feel when he gets it. The pushing is so much stronger and then of course the gaits get better and over-all things feel and go better.
He isn't moving off my right leg as well as he should, so that's something to work on. Also, when we pause for a break he loses his 'forward' very quickly. This happened at the last show too. Between the warm up where he was forward and 'on', to waiting 'on deck', he went to sleep! I couldn't get him going again - yikes! So that's another area for improvement - keeping motivation through brief rest periods. Not a big deal at this point for sure and not something I'll worry about. It's nice that he settles quickly but as time goes on he needs to learn to come back when called on. It may just be a matter of on-going training.
We tried our first ever shoulder in today and he got a few steps a couple of times. We didn't stay with it long of course. We did it from a very small walk circle then onto the track with a few steps, then back to the circle, etc. He stayed very soft, forward and willing to try throughout this exercise which was nice, as it was very focused, required a lot of bend on the circle and it was brand new.
After that concentration and very 'picky' work we asked him to lengthen his trot. He is so capable of this and just hasn't offered it up lately or frequently, but today he did. Good boy! He was so fun today.
We also worked on leg yield a bit, but he'd regressed. Cheryl said that often happens when you start a new exercise (shoulder in), so we didn't work at it too much and ended up with a few decent steps.
At some point in there we worked on canter. My first transition wasn't well ridden and consequently he started off on the wrong lead (completely my fault - I had him off balance), but he immediately switched it himself :) so he knows. We stopped and did a review of the canter depart, then did it much better and did a nice long side, circle, simple change through trot and did the reverse. It's coming along nicely but I need to keep my heels down. I'm still in the mind set of trying to hold him in the canter, but he is carrying it well and I need to relax into a good position. 
It was a really fun lesson and Rogo is at a really fun stage. He's working with me and learning and a joy to be around.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lesson On Longing

Joan gave Doug and I a lesson in longing today. For a while now I haven't been sure if it was spelled longe or lunge, so I finally looked it up. Apparently both are correct. I found several references. Here's one:
Longe
Definition: A longe line is a long strap of webbing or leather with a snap at one end. Used in training and exercising the horse. The handler stands in the middle as the horse circles around him about 20 feet away and ideally is responding to voice commands.
Alternate Spellings: lunge
We used Dan as our test subject. He was quite cooperative. I don't know why, but I actually enjoy longing him more than riding him, unless it's on a hack. Probably because he's more enthusiastic on the longe. I do lots of transitions and often use cavaletti, so that's what I need to be sure I do under saddle. Also, I just find Rogo's and Savanah's bigger movement and power more fun to ride.
We learned to circle the longe line or whip forward for more activity, backward for less, to vibrate the line for inward flexion if needed and to send a 'wave' down the line to move the horse out if needed. Also to point at the shoulder to move the horse out and to never actually hit the horse with the whip, only to point with it, move it behind the horse or crack it. I'm not sure the last dictum is doable with Rogo. He completely ignores a moving or cracking whip. Sometimes I touch him with it, although never hard.
This was the first in a series of longing lessons she has planned for us.
Doug and I rode Savanah and Rogo before the longe lesson, first in the ring and then on the beach. It was Rogo's second hack and we doubled his first distance that he went on by himself. The air is crispy, there are high winds
and it was a beautiful day for a ride. Like Dan on a hack, Rogo didn't want to come home and lolly-gagged down the beach on the way back. Doug and Savanah had to stop and wait for us!
I think he must be bored at home?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Videos

Still not feeling good and still inside due to rain, so I finally have time to post the videos of Doug's and my first show. With fall here I feel motivated to get the season's records in order.  I'm VERY illiterate when it comes to videos and computers, so my goal this weekend is to learn more. I want to have a good video record, and we take the videos, so I must get them posted or stored where we can refer back.
These appear to be quite poor quality and it may be due to my lack of knowing the best way to manage the transfer. Our camera is good enough, so I'm pretty sure better quality is possible if I knew what I was doing. Doug will know...
This show was in Truro the second weekend in July. 
The first video is of Rogo and I in our first class ever. Rogo hopped out of the ring almost at the end of the test, but Doug must have edited it out :). He probably should have left it. I'm over what I thought was terminal embarrassment and it would be good for a laugh. The judge told us to come back in and finish the test, so we did and placed second with a 62.+ He (the judge) was giving all the Walk Trot horses a break as it was a bronze show and the first show of the season in our Province. This is Walk Trot B. Rogo's nose is out quite a bit and he's a little counter bent at times, but I was very proud of how brave he was around all the new things. He'd never been in a ring with more than one horse (always Savanah except for once), never been ridden outside a fenced ring (thus the hopping out?), etc. Suddenly he was in a crowded warm up ring with multiple cantering horses, in a strange open space, etc. I know now there was nothing to worry about, but I'd never taken a horse to their first show before and it turned out I was much more nervous than he was.



This one is Doug and Savanah. This is Doug's first ever competition. They did well, starting the weekend with a 6th place and moving up steadily to place first in their last test in the biggest class of the show. I know I shouldn't brag like that, but I was so proud of them and they worked hard. This would be one of their earlier tests :), not bad, but they aced it the second day. This is the only one I have on video. This is Training Level test 1:

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rainy Day

I was away on business for a couple of days, and then got a sore throat / felt sick, so haven't ridden since Tues. Today I thought I'd better longe Rogoo, as it was his third day off and he gets lazy with too much down time. It was spitting rain on and off, but I made it out between showers. Rogo was cooperative, not overly anxious to exert himself  :) but not bad. We did a lot of transitions between gaits -he's quick to go up, slow to come back, which is better than the opposite I guess, and I started asking for canter from walk. He put in a trot step or two, but I think it will come pretty quickly if I keep working on it.
Once he was warmed up I decided to do some caveletti work with him. He hasn't been near them since he tripped on one and fell with me on his back last Sun evening. On the bright side, he was much more careful not to hit them! The hock action and suspension were great. I wouldn't recommend my method though :) Surprisingly he seemed eager to go through them and not at all nervous. He's always enjoyed them so I'm glad I didn't ruin that.
Because I'm bored with being inside I added some pictures of Rogo's second show to my pictures page. They're at the bottom of this page - Pictures and Videos . I have video too that I must add. I'll want to compare next year.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

WEG Viewing

I'm interested in watching the WEG and thought some readers might be too. I'm not very technical, so I hope this works. Universal Sport offers free live streaming of  WEG dressage, eventing and jumping and can be found at the site below.

1. To register for Universal Sport's WEG live streaming

2. Universal Sports WEG Live Streaming Schedule

Here's the site for FEI TV. You can watch live streaming of all of the WEG disciplines. You have to pay for it and there are different packages available. $12.99/ month will get you the WEG and for $69.00 you can buy a yearly subscription.

Does anyone else have other good options for watching? I'll post this to my media links page (see tab above) for ease of finding.

Found one on Calm, Forward, Straight here it is -USEF Network  
I think the above only works in the US.

I'll finish by saying I'm very disappointed and disturbed when I read about some training methods used by some international dressage competitors, notably rollkur, hyperflexion, low, deep and round or what ever name it is being called this week. I know some people are avoiding watching international competition for this reason, but there is still good training occurring, and amazing horses to see. Maybe we'll see the judges rewarding it more? I hope so.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lesson With Cheryl

I had a great lesson with Cheryl this morning. It's very windy, the result of hurricane Igor off shore I presume. I walked Rogo down to the beach first, for a little treat. His second time and he was almost, not quite, rushing to get there. He loves it. When I made him turn to come back much sooner than the other night, so we could have our lesson, he dawdled and squirmed for a bit, but then went along. I think he's going to make a great hacking horse.
He wasn't overly eager to do trot work so Charyl had me put him on a 20 m circle and do walk trot transitions, reinforcing the leg aid with a tap if needed. This seemed to break up the boredom for him and he soon got forward. I'll have to remember that exercise. Then we worked on shallow loops from the rail to the 1/4 line and back at the trot, changing our bend and posting diagonal as we went. He is getting better at this and although he was stiff at first he came onto the bit nicely after a while and started bending nicely.
Then it was time for some canter work. Oh la la - it was beautiful! All the jump is back and then some. Forward and huge - how fun is that :) When we crossed the diagonal just as I went to do a simple change I thought I felt him bunch to do a flying change, but it was too late for me to change my mind and we trotted, then picked up the opposite lead. I didn't know if I'd imagined it or not, but when I came in the house afterward Doug mentioned to me that he was watching and had thought Rogo was going to do another flying change, yesterday being his first, with Megan. I had thought I shouldn't try it, because I want to make sure I can do it well and not screw him up, but now I don't want to teach him it's wrong... Also, I don't want to make it hard to teach counter canter... Guess I better get some advice.
Next we worked on leg yielding and tried it at the trot a little bit and got a few steps. We cantered out of it when we got to the rail, and he did that very nicely. With that we called it a day, or a lesson. I'm very happy with him and Cheryl seems to be too.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rogo's First Flying Change Under Saddle

I had a lesson with Megan this morning. I have to admit, I'm kind of sore after yesterday's tumble, but neither Rogo or I are too worse for wear. We worked on connection a lot, trotting circles and when he came through, trotting down the long side. My issue? I 'give it away' (the connection) to get the forward on the long side. Also, as he comes onto the bit I feel like I should give to reward him, but I give too much. I have to learn how to stay soft and 'give' while still keeping the connection.
After that we worked on leg yield (just to the right today) and he is slowly getting it. He steps sideways, but loses impulsion as he goes. The exercise entailed leg yielding out at a walk and as we neared the rail to switch my weight to the outside seat bone and canter off. He got this with just a few trot steps, but was getting better each time.
Although he did all the exercises, he didn't have much energy or forwardness, so we thought we'd ask him for a big canter to see if that would get him more energized. It usually does. Megan tried him and this was the highlight of the ride - he popped a shoulder out at one point so she did a small counter bend (I couldn't even notice it) with a light tap, expecting he'd trot, and ..... he did this gorgeous, clean, perfect flying change and continued on cantering! I jumped up from my seat because I couldn't believe what I was seeing. They were trotting back to me by then and I said, "did he just do a flying change?" and she confirmed it and explained the sequence and that it seems to come naturally to him. I won't try it as I don't have the finesse yet and I don't want to screw with his nice canter. But wow, it's there waiting to come out :) He never takes a wrong lead, so cantering may be his strong point.
I got back on and we did some nice canter lengthening, and it did make him more happy and forward. Yeah Rogo! Meanwhile, I'm starting to stiffen up. The fall yesterday didn't help my back. I may need to squeeze in a trip to the chiropractor :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rogo's First Real Hack Out

All I can say is WOW! What a great ride. There was a bump at the end (not figuratively speaking), but I'm not going to let that detract from writing about the great part. We'd (Doug and I) planned since yesterday that today would be Rogo's first real hack - we'd go up the beach with Doug and Savanah. Then today Doug had a sore foot so I decided to go out and work with Rogo on my own. My plan to hack out by myself only formed as I was grooming and tacking up. I didn't mention it to Doug, although he'd only have to look out the window to see we were gone and he'd know where we were. I knew if I went in to tell him he'd insist on coming with us, or try to talk me out of it and my intuition was telling me to go.
Rogo walked to the edge of the beach with Savanah the other day, but that's as far as he's gone - not much more than a stone's throw from the riding ring. 
It was dusk, and we headed out the gate and down to the beach. The sky was a glorious pinky red as the sun set. Rogo was calm and forward - curious and happy but not at all spooky. He didn't neigh or look back once! Remember, he's never hacked out before - this was his first time. I find that remarkable. Even Savanah and Dan give a neigh or two when they leave home on their own, and they've been doing this for years.
Rogo had to walk by so many new things - big piles of seaweed that had just come in on a high tide, piles of drift wood, the remains of a big bonfire, different colored boulders. He wasn't the least bit concerned. My goal was to ride to two big concrete footings that are up the beach a distance, and they were the only thing he looked askance at. Since we were turning to go home then I hoped that he wouldn't associate that with them being scarey, but we met our goal so I turned back. We practiced halting and leg yielding on and off and it went very well. (Well, as well as it does in the riding ring - leg yield needs work!) We stayed at the walk for this ride, but I'll try a little trot heading away from home next time. He had to go down a little bank (only about 1 ft.) to get onto the beach and step up in going back. There were apples washed up there from the tide, so as a reward when we got back I stopped and let him eat three. He also had to pick his way through rocks to get onto the beach. He was very comfortable even though he's never been asked to do this, and went right along. He picked his feet up nicely in rocky areas, didn't take any stumbles, and while remaining nicely forward he didn't try to rush, either going or coming back. I'm VERY happy with him.
When we got back to the riding ring I asked for a trot an got a HUGE trot - Yippee! The magic bullet! He hasn't trotted like this for me in ages. To all those who told me that hacking was what he needed - you were right! The we slowed the trot and picked up a nice canter. It actually felt up hill to me at times and all of it was forward and nice. We did this in both directions.
Then came my stupidity. Rogo likes cavelleti and they were set out and he was trotting so happily that I decided to trot through them. I don't know if they were too close together for this big trot and he couldn't judge distance in the dusk (he did stretch his neck forward and down as I like him to to start through them), but at any rate he tripped on the second cavelleti and fell to his knees from quite a forward trot. I went sailing over his head, summer saulted and landed on the back of my neck, before completing the flip and coming down on my back. OMG - that could so easily have been bad - neck, extreme angle, hit hard.... I knew I was going to land this way as I was going through the air and I actually had a moment of being sure I was going to be badly injured. But by the grace of God I wasn't. I was surprised and hugely relieved when I was immediately able to move and get up :) Neither of us is hurt. He was standing beside me by the time I looked around and when I led him he was sound, so I got back on and just walked for a minute. Why this amazing horse trusts me I don't know. I sure don't deserve it when I do things like this without thinking.
So that's my story for the night - a hugely great first hack, and a very lucky outcome to a fall.

Pedigree Fundraiser for Dog Rescue

I got this idea from Grey Horse Matters and What Was I Thinking. It's a fund raiser for dogs sponsored by Pedigree. Click 'like' on their Facebook page to donate a bowl of food.
In addition, if you mention this drive on your blog between Sept. 16th through Sept. 19th, Pedigree® will donate a 20-lb. bag of food to a shelter. So please post about the Pedigree drive and enter the link to your blog over at Life With Dogs, a great blog for dog lovers.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Doug and I Have a Lesson With Joan

Doug and I had a great lesson with Joan today, and we were both so tired we napped afterwards :)
She worked with us on turn on the forehand and leg yielding. Rogo was the turn on the forehand star. He's done it before, but did it quite well from the first time he was asked. We could do a little polishing to the left. One area for improvement is to control each step, but even that isn't too bad. Doug and Savannah did quite well, but it needs some work in staying in one spot.
Then the roles reversed, as Savanah and Doug were the leg yielding stars. They'd never done it before and off they went leg yielding back and forth between the quarter and center lines, keeping a nice rhythm. Damn them! Ha Ha. Rogo and I were next up and we didn't do so well. We could get some lateral steps, but they were very slow and lacked impulsion. He's getting the idea though, so it's all good.
Then we moved on to sitting trot. Thank heavens Joan is starting me with this now because it's going to take me months. I thought it would be a little easier because I can sit Savanah's biggest trot and she's no slouch, but I can't sit to Rogo. I think it's partly that I haven't done it in a long time, and partly that he has a lot of suspension and I've never learned to sit to that. Once again, Savanah and Doug did great - their sitting trot was lovely. Doug has come light year's in the last year and even over the summer having her home and riding more. I think going in competitions really helped him too. It firms up goals, and also allows you to see good riding and be motivated to get there.
We finished with riding together in formation and Joan calling out the pattern she wanted. The horses seem to enjoy this and it's fun. It forces you to control the speed within the gait too, as the outside horse speeds up and the inside one slows down on the corners.
Tonight I longed Dan. He is doing so well on the longe. We did 5 cavelleti, spaced to lengthen his trot and he soars through them. We also did a lot of walk trot canter transitions on the longe. Maybe it's my imagination, and I need to work with him more, but I think his trot is looking less flat even when he's not going over cavelleti.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Things I Want To Remember About Rogo

I don't want to sound annoying by saying I have the best horse, blah, blah, blah. And I was quite frank about his 'challenging' side in my last post. But the truth is that I'm totally smitten head over heels in love with my horse. I feel like I won the horse lotto by finding him. I'm writing this for me, and will put it in my stories page, so be warned it may be nauseating to others. If you're faint of heart turn back! It goes with my previous post and is part of the record of him I want to keep.
He's five this summer and has become a riding horse - still green but does walk, trot, canter, bending, circles, etc. and is doing all of training level work, starting to school level one and beginning to hack out.
I met him as a two year old slightly north of Edmonton and we had an instant bond. I was out there shopping for a horse and when I went to his breeding place and went in the field with him he calmly pushed his way through a herd of about 10 or 12 horses (all beautiful warm bloods), came up to me, pressed his nose to my face and insisted on holding it there. If any other horse came close to me he'd quietly push them away, never creating a commotion but never letting another horse into my space. I was there about 1/2 an hour and he stayed glued to me. The owners said he had never done this before and in fact he hadn't had a lot of handling. Here's a picture of us when we met.


I liked him best on paper before I ever went out there, and he checked out well, so after another visit (same behavior from him) I bought him and had him shipped back to NS. 
He's demonstrated a great deal of trust in me from the beginning, and I don't know why. I hadn't earned it when he gave it to me, but it didn't seem to matter to him. From the first time he saw me and still today he'll follow me whenever he can. When I get off after a ride I can walk around the arena, zig zag, do circles, walk away from the barn, and he'll follow me, completely on his own without a hand on him. He's always done this and was never trained to do it. He'll leave his food to come to me if he sees me, sometimes just long enough to say hello, sometimes to stand with me. If he's in the pasture and sees me in the barn he'll almost always come to stand with me and won't leave until I do. If he's in his stall he always greats me at the stall door and pushes his head into his halter.
He is very gentle and kind and has the kindest eyes. To me they look like the eyes of an old soul, and he often acts like a much older horse, in terms of being calm. Some examples of his kindness and calmness:
  1. He accepted me on his back from the very first time without the least concern. He didn't want to go forward mind you, but he's never tried to put me off. He was backed during the winter of 08/09 and there was a lot of ice at the boarding facility where I had him. Because of this he ended up without turn out for weeks on end at one point, but he never acted foolish with me on his back in the indoor.
  2. I've come off a couple of times (once when something went up his nose, loss of balance, etc.) and he immediately stops in his tracks and comes to me. Maybe I'm imagining it but he seems concerned when it happens, touching me with his nose, that sort of thing, never running away.
  3. Even this past spring when he had the three months of very forward attitude (no whip, spurs, always wanting to go, go, go) he was very safe. I don't think it's in him to hurt. Go his own way maybe, if he could get away with it :), but never forgetting he's carrying a rider or wanting to get rid of them. Although any horse, especially a young horse, can forget themselves so I need to be mindful of that.
  4. He's never had the slightest concern about leaving other horses to go on his own with me. He was brought up in a herd environment (supposedly very good for horses) so wasn't separated from other horses until we started training, and it's been a non issue. I can take him away and he doesn't care. He can be in a riding ring and have the other horses leave and he doesn't care. He doesn't even acknowledge that it is happening. Most horses get used to this but Rogo has never had the least concern.
  5. I rode him (had a lesson on him) one day last winter in the indoor when the wind was gusting up to 100 km / hour. It was so loud no other horse could even be longed - they just jumped and reared and had to leave the arena. It sounded like a freight train. My teacher had to stand right beside me and yell to be heard, and Rogo acted exactly the same as if it were a calm summer day. There was no reaction to the thundering noise what so ever. I even wondered if he might be deaf, but he responds well to voice commands. This was pretty amazing for a four year old.
  6. When he was injured (bad puncture wound in his leg) he wouldn't let Doug or the vet touch him and they had to wait for me to come home. It was a complete non issue for me to bath it and put salve on it. He'd sort of hold it forward for me to help him, quiet and calm.
  7. When he went to his second show this summer he ended up spending his first night there as the only horse in his barn (horses were stabled in two barns) because of people scratching. He didn't have the least concern about it. Not a neigh or a peep. The next day more people arrived and when we were all getting ready to go home on Sun. my neighbors told me what a star he'd been, that he acted like the calm 17 year old beside him. Apparently some woman had come by and fell in love with him and he spent an hour nuzzling her - the fickle thing :)
Those are some of the sweet things about him that I want to remember. He is so trusting that I feel it's a gift I need to protect and honor.
One other thing I'm learning to love about him - as he's learned to canter he loves to canter. I've posted about how he can be lazy (I need to sort out hacking, nutrition and not over-working), but as it turns out he LOVES to canter. As I start asking him to lengthen his stride in the canter he becomes so joyful and forward, with big bounding strides, and then it translates to his other gaits. And even though he loves this big canter he responds easily when I ask him to bring it down. Fun!
I guess I feel so lucky to have him because I don't feel like I ever did anything to earn this close relationship with him - he just gave it to me. And I know intuitively that it will just keep getting better as long as I respect it. I can't ever take it for granted and I have to protect his health and wellness like the treasure it is. This is the summer when he started learning to learn and it's been one of the best summers of my life.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rogo - Starting Out

I want to write an end of summer summary about Rogo, because I want to remember his summer as a 5 year old, when he's 10, 15 and 20+. It's probably going to be very boring for anyone but me, but I want to put it away for future years.
If anyone has read this blog they know I frequently say how sweet he is. It's true, he is sweet and I'm going to write about it, but I may have given a bit of a false impression. He's sweet in that he loves to be with people, is gentle and has never hurt anyone, and is extremely trust worthy for a young horse.
I know some people read that as him being willingly engaged in training. That would be quite far from the truth, at least until this summer. 
Joan, who started us and who loves Rogo too, has told me that in her forty plus years of training horses / being around horses, she can't remember encountering one as resistant and stubborn (she might have used more tactful words) as he was when we started with him. Of course she was always patient and kind to him and taught me very kind methods to start him. 
His resistance didn't manifest itself in any way that would hurt someone - it was passive resistance or avoidance. For example when we started longing him at 3 1/2 years he constantly ran away (to the other end of the ring). For weeks. I would get dragged, with heeled boots on. So would Doug. We finally had to build a round pen like affair to keep him with us.
When we did keep him with us he would only walk, not trot. If you got him pushed into a trot he'd only take a few steps and then stop and refuse to move. We'd feed him carrots as a reward for trotting a few steps and slowly got the trotting up from a few steps to a few rounds.
He wouldn't take the bit in his mouth, even when it was coated in molasses. For weeks. His head would shoot up in the air and stay there.
When I mounted him he wouldn't move forward unless he was led or had someone walking in front of him. He would stop and literally refuse to move. You could kick, swat, yell, cajole, wait, etc., etc. Nothing. Even when on the longe line. In his favor to this day he has never tried to put me off, and maybe it's my imagination, but he seemed worried that I'd fall off. If you could get him moving forward he would carefully place each foot on the ground and you could sort of feel him almost teetering. He was very clumsy, so maybe he knew it wasn't a good idea :)
When we did finally convince him that it was okay to walk forward we faced the same thing with trotting. If he was walking along and you asked for a trot he'd try one or two steps and then stop and refuse to move. That would be the end of it - he wouldn't even walk. Nothing would convince him (mind you, I wasn't going to sit there beating him and it would have been counter productive anyway).
Finally, with much perseverance and patience we got him trotting. But twice during this time he was laid off for a month due to injury or ailment (a puncture wound once and a bad reaction to worm medicine once) and both times when I brought him back to work I had to start from the beginning again - he refused to move forward.
So as you can see would happen, this took up a winter and most of a summer. Last summer I had him walking and trotting around - no training, just moving forward. I was showing Dan and working with him and letting Rogo grow up. Then I got a nerve injury in my neck and Rogo was laid off for three months. Talk about the slowest start ever. That took us up to last Christmas. True to form, when I brought him back to work he didn't want to move.Only this time I think he'd grown and his saddle didn't fit. And I'd been lieing in a recliner not moving for all this time, so sure wasn't in top form and only had partial use of my left arm (it's slowly come back). 
Anyway, we got the saddle sorted and he came around more quickly as far as moving forward, but every gain we made last winter was a struggle, for me and him.
I know many people would have the philosophy that I spoiled him or he should have been made to know I was boss when all of these things took so long. I can't explain it. I actually agree that with many / most horses you need to be very strong if challenged. And to be clear, I've never let Rogo get pushy and I would find ways to end our lessons with him obeying me, but I had to be very creative. He is very quietly confident, which is good, but it also means you have to stay one step ahead of him all the time. He is a horse who it is much better to outsmart than try to out muscle.
It's funny, but in all this time I never felt that he wouldn't come around. And there were lots of truly amazingly good things about him that I'm leading up to. That's my next post, but I want to remember all of this. We've had a great bond since we met (next post), but this summer I felt like we became a team in our work. He started trying to figure out what I wanted instead of instinctively pushing back. He's crossed a milestone and become a riding horse. The closeness I've always felt toward him is even stronger.

Great Ride

Rogo's little holiday and 'starter' hack out seems to have done him a world of good. Today Doug and I warmed up he and Savanah, then took them out in the field adjacent to their pasture and walked around. This was completely new territory for Rogo. He was quite snorty and happy, seemed to think he should be able to stop and eat grass a couple of times, but generally very good. He walked smartly along, no needing to be pushed (except when he wanted the grass of course). We did a loop around, then came back into the riding ring and did a little ring work. 
I tried to lengthen and shorten his canter stride for the first time and he did it! I read in Hilda Gurney's article in my most recent Dressage Today that going back to a shorter stride canter after the lengthening is one of the most difficult moves for horses starting to school level 1, so I thought I might as well give it a try and get started now since his canter has been good lately. He did it the very first ask. He is really following my rhythm now. We did it three times, and I'd say he did it well (for a first time) 2 out of 3. I need to get better at my aids too. In capturing the energy to come back to a shorter stride I was a little too abrupt, but he held the canter and followed the rhythm. What a good boy!
To do it I picked up the canter going into a long side, cantered down the long side pushing him forward, legs into hands, and then as we approached the short side I kept the same rhythm and shortened my aids. He got it. Yippee! 
I also asked for a canter from a walk twice and both times he took one or two trot steps and then cantered. His impulsion was definitely improved from the time off and getting out of the riding ring.
I also tried a little walking leg yield and for the first time ever he really 'got' it, yielding to the right. He walked along, stepping over front and back. Doug was watching and was really impressed. Yielding left wasn't so good. He got a few steps out of several tries, but my aids aren't as consistent and clear to the left, so I need to practice on my own.
All in all a great morning ride.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mini Holiday for Rogo

I've decided to give Rogo four days off. He's been ridden 5 to 6 days a week all summer, and lately I've noticed that although he is sweet and willing to meet me, get tacked up and go out, etc., his energy level is dropping. I thought the break in the heat might help him, but it hasn't. I rode two days ago and in some respects it went very well - lots of canter work, holding his canter, bending nicely, trotting over cavelletti, but...he just doesn't have any bounce or joy in it. Not unhappy, not sour, but my gut is telling me to back off before it gets there.
One thing that we're missing is hacking out. He's never been ridden outside a riding ring, except for a little bit in an adjacent pasture. Doug and I HAVE to take he and Savanah for some hacks before we go back to Cheryl's the first week of Oct. My goal is to go for a beach ride with him before he heads to winter quarters. This could be a little more challenging than it sounds for a quiet horse like him. He isn't a bucker or rearer or spooker, etc. etc. His one bad habit is that he'll run for the barn when he's being longed if he gets unhappy with it and he'll try to run for the barn when ridden occasionally. He hadn't done it in months until I tried riding him bare back last week, but then it popped up again. When I led him on the beach earlier this summer he ran from me when we turned for home - not to the barn or the other horses - but to a patch of clover. He isn't the least herd bound, so that's in our favor.
I'm hoping getting out of the ring for 'fun' riding will be more interesting for him. He's worked really hard this summer and made a lot of progress. My other thing to try is nutrition. I've increased his grain again and I'm putting him back on alfalfa cubes. The later is Cheryl's suggestion - he may need more protein than he's getting. 

A final note - Anky has dropped her ridiculous law suit against Astrid Apels. The up side of that story is the huge amount of bad publicity garnered by Anky and her husband for their training methods, and their bullying behavior.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bareback Ride on the Beach, and Lesson With Rogo

I used to ride Savanah almost every day, and for a period of several months one time rode only bareback. Since Doug started dressage and rides Savanah, and so much of my time is taken up with Rogo and trying to keep Dan going, I haven't ridden Savanah much. This makes me sad because I love riding her - she is really fun to ride - forward but sane. Her big broad back is very comfortable to ride bareback on and she doesn't mind it at all.
Yesterday afternoon I went for a great bareback ride on the beach with her - it was perfect! A stiff breeze, sunny and warm but with a hint of fall in the air. We did lots of trot and canter and I remembered why I loved this so much. It was wonderful.
Today I had a great lesson with Cheryl. She seems to be pleased with Rogo's progress and I am too. He had a couple of highlights today - perfect canter work requiring lots of steering and control, and nice big trot over cavelletti. Well, let me correct the part about perfect canter. Cheryl pointed out an important piece - as he has gained more control he's also lost some of his jump (it was pretty impressive at times), but she tells me not to worry, it's a stage. We have to watch and work very specifically with him at this point in the training so that we don't cause the natural gaits to deteriorate. 
I'm also able to focus on my riding now, which for a long time took a back seat because Rogo took so much attention and work. I felt like I had just lost my ability to ride and position, but I think it's starting to come back. Maybe what didn't kill me will make me stronger? :) I shouldn't even joke about it!
My neighbor's niece rode Dan today and did a very nice job with him. I wish she would ride him more, but I don't think she'll be back for awhile (she was visiting for a few days). Maybe I can talk her into some riding at Cheryl's.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Storm / Hurricane and Riding Update

We canceled our Labour Day weekend dressage show and clinic yesterday because of Hurricane Earl. I was looking forward to riding in the clinic on Mon. with the judge John MacPherson. He is a level 3 dressage coach.
The hurricane forecast sounds a little better, but still nothing is certain. It is currently forecast to hit the counties in the southern part of the Province as a hurricane and the rest of the Province as a tropical storm.
I rode Rogo bareback for awhile last night, for the first time. He didn't really know what to make of that. He was a little surprised when I hopped on and then for the first time in a few weeks, was very forward. When we trotted he was a little naughty in that he didn't want to steer or stop, which is hard when you don't have stirrups! How did he know? Why did he react this way? Who knows. I aborted my plan of a bareback canter! I put his saddle on and we went back to work.
We had some great canters - he is getting much better balance and as he is holding his canter without so much effort on my part I'm learning to relax and move with him better - sort of a chicken and egg thing. This translates into big, bounding strides which I love! Good bye flat, racey canter (I hope).
We also practiced some sitting trot. I want to start this now so I'll have it by level one. His trot is much bigger than I'm used to. I do about 8 to 10 steps of sitting, then rising before I start to bounce, then back to sitting. The bareback was supposed to help with this too, but maybe we'll need to do that on the longe for now :).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hurricane Earl?

It's crazy hot, humidix (?) today in the 40's and forecast high's of 32 today and 34 tomorrow. There are warnings in affect to stay inside. I have a riding lesson early, at 9:00 am, to get ahead of the heat as best we can. As it is we'll take it fairly easy and not stay out too long.
My big weather dilemma is hurricane Earl, forecast to hit the east coast of Canada on Fri. night / Sat. morning somewhere. I'm on the show committee for a dressage show scheduled for this time, with an indoor ring and warm up ring, so wind and rain shouldn't be too big a problem for us Maritimers if the storm hits far enough east or west. It could go over us though, making cancellation of the show necessary. Environment Canada says they won't have very accurate predictions for a land fall location until tonight at the earliest. Keeping my fingers crossed.
I longed Dan over cavelletti last night and he was a sweetie. I have to say, he is much more careful about not hitting them than either Savanah or Rogo. They'll plow into them or step on them until they're warmed up, but Dan is very careful not to touch them and seems to enjoy going over them. He licks his lips, concentrates and tunes into me more. The fun part is that it is effortless to get him to stretch his stride - he won't hit the poles, so if you separate the distance (reasonably of course) he will take big springing trot strides to get through them. He looked so pretty - lots of suspension. I don't know if I could ever get him to translate that to under saddle, but I'll never know if I don't try.